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Revealed cardinal preference

  • Sákovics, József

I prove that as long as we allow the marginal utility for money (lambda) to vary between purchases (similarly to the budget) then the quasi-linear and the ordinal budget-constrained models rationalize the same data. However, we know that lambda is approximately constant. I provide a simple constructive proof for the necessary and sufficient condition for the constant lambda rationalization, which I argue should replace the Generalized Axiom of Revealed Preference in empirical studies of consumer behavior. 'Go Cardinals!' It is the minimal requirement of any scientifi c theory that it is consistent with the data it is trying to explain. In the case of (Hicksian) consumer theory it was revealed preference -introduced by Samuelson (1938,1948) - that provided an empirical test to satisfy this need. At that time most of economic reasoning was done in terms of a competitive general equilibrium, a concept abstract enough so that it can be built on the ordinal preferences over baskets of goods - even if the extremely specialized ones of Arrow and Debreu. However, starting in the sixties, economics has moved beyond the 'invisible hand' explanation of how -even competitive- markets operate. A seemingly unavoidable step of this 'revolution' was that ever since, most economic research has been carried out in a partial equilibrium context. Now, the partial equilibrium approach does not mean that the rest of the markets are ignored, rather that they are held constant. In other words, there is a special commodity -call it money - that reflects the trade-offs of moving purchasing power across markets. As a result, the basic building block of consumer behavior in partial equilibrium is no longer the consumer's preferences over goods, rather her valuation of them, in terms of money. This new paradigm necessitates a new theory of revealed preference.

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File URL: http://repo.sire.ac.uk/handle/10943/305
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Paper provided by Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE) in its series SIRE Discussion Papers with number 2012-02.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:edn:sirdps:305
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  1. Syngjoo Choi & Shachar Kariv & Wieland M?ller & Dan Silverman, 2014. "Who Is (More) Rational?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(6), pages 1518-50, June.
  2. Richard Blundell & Martin Browning & Ian Crawford, 1997. "Non-parametric Engel curves and revealed preferences," IFS Working Papers W97/14, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  3. Cherchye, L.J.H. & de Rock, B. & Vermeulen, F.M.P., 2005. "Opening the Black Box of Intra-Household Decision-Making : Theory and Non-Parametric Empirical Tests of General Collective Consumption Models," Discussion Paper 2005-51, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  4. M.J. Todd & A. Fostel & H.E. Scarf, 2004. "Two New Proofs of Afriat's Theorem," Econometric Society 2004 North American Summer Meetings 632, Econometric Society.
  5. Douglas M. Gale & Shachar Kariv & Syngjoo Choi & Raymond Fisman, 2007. "Revealing Preferences Graphically: An Old Method Gets a New Tool Kit," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(2), pages 153-158, May.
  6. Marcel Richter & Kam-Chau Wong, 2005. "Infinite inequality systems and cardinal revelations," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 26(4), pages 947-971, November.
  7. Donald J. Brown & Caterina Calsamiglia, 2005. "The Nonparametric Approach to Applied Welfare Analysis," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1507, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
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